I have wanted to have blue hair for at least half of my life.
Not bright, electric blue, but a dark, steely, navy blue that looked like Wonder Woman’s hair back when newsprint comics didn’t print a true black, but instead built it from other colors such that you could always detect blue in the highlights.
I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. I like blue, but not navy blue. I’m actually a bit afraid of it, to tell the truth. I don’t like how it’s deceptively almost-black. Wearing pants that might be black or might be navy blue used to make me physically itch from confusion. Yet that’s how I’ve always described this dream hair.
I described it in high school, when Gina and I tried to Manic Panic it directly onto my long brown locks and failed to even tint it. I described it in college, when I inexplicably went copper-red instead because it wouldn’t raise eyebrows on interviews as it faded. I described it when I worked for Blue Cross, joking that it was the wrong Pantone blue for me to be their mascot. Yet, even as I did so many other things I had always wanted and dreamt of, I never had that blue hair.
All of that is to say I am proud and quite giddy to be writing this post to you from beneath dark blue locks today, on the fifteenth anniversary of this blog.
If I had to speculate on the origins of my blue-hair obsession, I would trace it back to being psychic, which in turn is linked to summer camp. Not to say that my psychic powers came from summer camp. They’re just related.
Let’s step back for a moment. It was circa Junior year of high school and I had a major crush on a younger girl who, in retrospect, was part of a post-punk early manic-pixie-dream-girl movement of chicks who wore black with zippers and patches and dyed their hair awesome colors and who were very briefly my type. (My actually-punk female friends at the time were blonde and wore plaid.)
I was resolved not to repeat past romantic failures in this instance (oh, youthful hubris) and was gearing up to ask said young lady on a date rather than let the feelings linger unannounced. One night I dreamt that I was riding on a school bus with her sitting behind me, and I turned around to confess my feelings only to see that her hair – previously bleached blonde and dyed in streaks, was now blue.
This was a weird dream not because of the girl or the hair but because of the school bus. I had never ridden one of those yellow-colored, vinyl-seat school busses in any context other than summer camp, and just for one summer.
Summer camp was a miserable experience for me, because it involved spending unadulterated time with other boys my own age. I mostly didn’t like other boys my own age, but mostly because they didn’t like me. That started around the seventh grade, when I was suddenly teased for not being boy enough, which was a different sort of teasing than the teasing I’d experienced for having massive beaver teeth or Spock hair. Sure, all those times I was being teased for being different, but now I was teased for not being the same.
That summer was probably when I stopped really enjoying sports. I was actually a voracious watcher of football and wrestling around that time, and I had always loved gym class. Yet, at a sports-oriented camp, I discovered there were two kinds of boys – the boys who were good at sports and then the boys who got teased for being gay. And, of that subset, I was the one who actually seemed as though I might really be gay, which made me the teased-in-chief.
With that being the experience I associated with yellow school busses, you would think I would have recognized that my blue-haired school bus dream was not a good sign but instead a terrible portent of impending failure. Yet, the next day I waited in the hall in the stairwell outside one of my dream-girl’s classes. Out she emerged, and as I wound up for my actual-life confession of teenage crushdom, I noticed her hair was blue.
“Hi,” she said, smiling, not expecting to see me there.
“Hi,” I replied. Her hair was blue. I searched my memory, trying to recall if she mentioned she would be dying her hair blue. Nothing came up.
“Your hair is blue.” I remarked. It seemed like a good sign.
“Yeah, I did it last night.” Funny, that, since I had dreamt about the blue hair the night before as well.
I did ultimately comment on my feelings in that exchange, referring to them as “non-platonic.” She agreed. I was thrilled. Yet, a week later, she was surprised when I had Gina act as my valet to deliver her roses in homeroom on Valentine’s day, later commenting, “I didn’t know what platonic meant.”
Just as she had misinterpreted me, clearly I had misinterpreted the dream.
As it turns out, she was not amongst the most significant unrequited loves of my teenage life, as displayed by my songwriting habits of the time. However, the blue hair stuck with me. Maybe that part wasn’t such a bad idea.
Last week I went to summer camp for the first time in half my life – since circa the beginnings of my blue-hair urge.
It was not a weeklong hipster summer camp for Brooklynites (not that there is anything wrong with that). Instead, about a quarter of RJMetrics packed up for a weekend of sports, swimming, sun, and sleeping in cabins for no reason at all, although ostensibly the reason was team-building and camaraderie.
A lot of it was the most fun I’ve had while not playing with a band or with a baby in… I don’t know how long. A long time. And, in having that fun, I found myself doing things I’ve never done before – or, at least, had never had fun while doing before. I competently played sports, actually scoring and at one point sliding into a base (I was out). And, a gaggle of much-younger, much-fitter guys taught me how to do flips into the pool – something I’ve always wanted to know how to do.
Due to said band- and baby-having, I don’t get to do a lot of these off-hours team-building and camaraderie things. I’m missing one right now, actually. As a result, I try to do my team-building and camaraderie during my time in the office as much as I can, which means I have to figure out how to do them while working.
That recently took the form of a workgroup around selling analytics to content-based sites. I paired up with a group of people I never get to work with and dissected our favorite money-making blogs to understand how they ticked, which inevitably lead to dissecting this blog to expose those gears and guts of visitor patterns and affiliate links and conversion tracking.
I didn’t give it a second thought. Having a blog is part of who I am just like the band and the baby. I don’t hide those things, so why hide the blog? All of them are a part of what makes me a success.
Driving home on Sunday morning from my idyllic day at camp, it struck me that all the fun had to do with trust. I trust those three-dozen other people every day with my success and the success of our company. They trusted I would do my best to catch a ball. I trusted they wouldn’t make fun of my twenty back-flops into the pool on the way to a full 360 degree rotation. They trusted I wouldn’t make fun of them as they sang to my guitar playing around the campfire and that I could lead them through enough sun salutations to warm ourselves from the cold, dewy dawn that surrounded us. I trusted I could use my blog as an example for my colleagues and they trusted that I was doing something that would help them sell and service clients better, even though it seemed a little unorthodox.
All we had to do was trust each other.
This past year has been a year of everything and nothing, a constantly churning status quo. I don’t quite know how to sum it up. Maybe it’s because the things around me are changing more than I am, and so I am suddenly measuring time by my sameness rather than my difference.
Last year I had a baby and now I have a toddler. Last year I had a scrappy acoustic trio sweating out covers and this year I’m leading a full band confidently unreeling unheard tunes. Last year I wasn’t writing music, but this year I’ve got a fistful of new songs. Last year Arcati Crisis was on indefinite pause, and this year we played one of our best shows ever. Last year I had hired a core of my team, and this year I nearly tripled it. Last year E was also the director at a successful start-up, and this year she is employee #4 at an even-newer start-up and a local tech figure of some note.
All those things changed, but it’s hard to tell if I have. If I did, it was in a much more incremental way. I’m the same shape and weight, the same voice and temperament. I didn’t change many opinions or buy many new clothes. Despite nearly slicing my thumb-tip off a few weeks ago, I don’t even have any new scars to report.
Maybe it would be easier to tell the difference if I was writing more, but maybe I’m not writing more because things seem so the same. I suppose the only way to know would be to write about it.
I should probably do that.
Today I almost cried in a hair salon.
To be fair, I cry a lot of places for a lot of reasons – becoming a parent just exacerbated that. But when I hugged my long-time stylist goodbye today with tears in the corners of my eyes it was because she helped me perfectly realize a dream that had stuck with me for over 17 years. It was a complete shock to look in the mirror and see that blue I imagined sitting on my head, perfectly realized.
That blue-hair urge is only slightly older than this blog, seventeen to its fifteen, but where my three week process of changing my hair still feels sudden, Crushing Krisis is anything but. It’s like a fossil record of myself, full of dated thoughts and opinions in each era, crystalized in HTML to be excavated and revisited later. If it wasn’t for this record, maybe I wouldn’t understand how much I’ve changed except for those big, blue-haired milestones.
I’ve been wrestling with trusting other people even longer than with the blue or the blog, and tracing the story of the blue back to its proverbial roots made me realize just where that trust began to elude me. It was at that point where everyone stopped being just kids and started being boys and girls, jocks or geeks, straight or gay. That continued through playing my own songs, always ready to wince away a heckling comment.
It doesn’t make any sense that performance anxiety or avoiding sports or not wanting to hang out with other men could stem back to those formative moments just like it’s hard to believe my wanting blue hair somehow emerged from that marble stairwell, but those are my best two guesses and thanks to one psychic dream they’ve been inexorably connected all of this time in the back of my mind.
This week feels like a sort of kismet in that way, wherein I resolved the camp issues and then my long held hair wishes, and also stayed in a cabin full of a dozen other dudes without feeling out of place for a second, all right in time for the day of the year that I retrospect the most. It’s clear that I’ve changed a lot in the past year despite some semblance of status quo, and not just by the virtue of it ending with me scoring points or dying my hair blue.
I feel like I’ve just put a final piece of punctuation on a long-unfinished sentence – one that’s been playing out here for years. It’s a lot about trust but also about just doing what you know will make you happy when you are sure it can’t hurt anyone – only help.
So here I am, instructing my future self: when you look back at this sort of epiphany and want to know how it feels to get here, do not think of the way your whole body has ached for days or the dye burning your scalp. Instead, consider that second after my feet left the diving board dozens of times and how I shut my eyes and just spun, unmoored from gravity and rotating, spinning free, knowing I would hit the water in a moment but also knowing that was not the point at all. The point is the journey, the spinning, the trying to orient myself the right way, and all the rest is just what results. That’s why I kept diving, even after I stopped landing on my back and got the flip right. It wasn’t about getting the flip right. It was about what happened on the way.
Tomorrow when I wake up I might feel the same, but I will have this blue hair to show me I am different. Yet, blue or not, no day is ever the same and that’s why I keep waking up and doing it again. Sometimes I am the change and sometimes the change is all around me, and no matter what I spin through it again, trying to orient myself.
Thank you for being a part of that change and part of what stays the same. Thank you, and happy birthday to this.